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Venom > Welcome to Hell > Reviews > gzusrocker
Venom - Welcome to Hell

Four decades of true blasphemy - 100%

gzusrocker, December 19th, 2021

It would be hard to say that what Black Sabbath recorded in the 70's was not heavy metal, given the circumstances and, of course, the heavy and dark sound, unheard of at the time. In the same way, it is difficult to discredit the black metal label to Venom, given the musical lineage that was constituted through the sound of the English band, a blueprint to so many extreme acts. Of course, listening to an album like “Welcome to Hell” without having any explicit reference to the impact and influence this record had on the extreme metal scene, one could say it's a dirtier and more sinful version of Motörhead, allied to high doses of a kind of thrash metal in its embryonic stage.

All of this is true at the same time, however. Venom's sound is not far or radically different from what was practiced in British heavy metal at the time. There's a lot of Motörhead going on here, but also a lot of other things coming out of the so-called New Wave of British Heavy Metal. However, I believe that art and therefore music are much more than black and white. In fact, there is an unhealthy amount of anachronism in the categorization of Venom as a proto-thrash band and not a black metal one, based on two musical movements that only settled into their final form years after the recording of the first two seminal works by the English trio.

All that said, there is as much evidence as possible that this one, albeit not as much as its successor, is a black metal record like any other. There's not all that standard second wave musical format, but the dirtiness, the sense of freedom or "I do what I want and fuck it", the clumsy and muddy production, the musicality filled with an aggressiveness made of no big frills, the theme of the lyrics, the use of sinister aliases for the band members and, of course, the live performance, all these things are right here for anyone who wants to see. I myself was one among many purists who failed to intertwine Venom with “contemporary” black metal, even though I already recognized its immense importance. However, as my musical mentality matured and I saw the internal aspects of the art that are not so superficial, I realized that I was being anachronistic and excessively methodical.

And does the music quality justify the legendary status of this album? I would say yes, even though I'm not the biggest fan of lo-fi productions or even the more “edgy satanist” scene of major black metal. However, as with so many bands I listen to and are exceptions to these personal tastes, the rawness and shock value that exist in “Welcome to Hell” work surprisingly well. There is a vitality that transcends the record's almost lack of musical technique. It's such an immensely fun album to listen to, with catchy riffs and simple but effective leads. The drums have a rudimentary but extremely fitting technique in the sonic aura of the album as a whole. And what about Cronos's thundering and extremely distorted bass? Well, the same thing we can say about his vocal performance: barely technical, but with loads of attitude and presence.

Each of the album's eleven tracks follows more or less the same formula: a hybrid between vintage garage rock 'n' roll and seminal, extremely rough British heavy metal style, all done with spectacular energy. This set Venom apart from other bands in the scene. It's as if they've taken the entire surrounding atmosphere and thickened every particle of it, resulting in a sinister wave of pure metal, in its most hedonistic and uncompromising form. It's the kind of sound that, by being so bad, it's actually great. Something so vibrant and filled with a contagious spirit of youthful rebellion that it can't go unnoticed. Of course, today you can listen to the most modern metal bands and prefer their neatest and most frivolous way of making heavy music, their exotic time signatures, their dissonant way of playing, the philosophical depth of their lyrics. I myself like some great bands that fit that formula. However, it's nearly impossible to be a die-hard metal fan and not be completely swept away by "Welcome to Hell" and its infectious journey to the gates of Hades, the kind of thing we need in order to remind ourselves why most of us came to love that kind of music to begin with.